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Misconception About Tiv Hospitality.


John Akevi
The prime purpose of this piece is to examine the Tiv hospitality

against the background of the many misconception sold to the wider

society by some western scholers,writers and even by some ethnic

groups surrounding Tivland.
Despite the attempts made by some latter European
writers,anthropologists and ethnographers to redeem the image of the

Tiv already set ablaze by their anxiety to penetrate Tivland and to

establish alien rule in an era of imperialism,based their

understanding of the Tiv people on earlier 19th Century European

Rev.Fr.Dr. Ushe Mike Ushe in his masterpiece titled, “Kpor of Tiv

culture”(2010),elucidates,…the gross misconception about Tiv

hospitality in pre,Modern and Post-modern times. Some of these

misconception are: That Tiv are hostile and aggressive set of people

who like fighting with their neighbors in order to expand their

territorial boundaries. Second,that the Tiv do share their wives with

visitors in the name of hospitality. Third,that adultery and

fornication are not sins in Tiv Religion. Those who are either biased

or prejudiced about the Tiv people have blown these and other related

misconception out of proportion. However,we could ask: Are the Tiv

people really hostile? Is adultery as well as fornication not sinful

in Tiv Religion or society at large? Do the Tiv people actually share

their wives with visitors?
Dr.Ushe (2010) emphatically expresses this thus:…one important fact

to note here is that Tiv are vocal,open minded
people,curious,inquisitive and practical,especially when they are

unjustly maltreated,subjugated or when they want to project their

view. Paul Bohannan and Laura Bohannan (1953) confirm this,thus:

….the Tiv are the most practical and unsuperstitious people that we

had met on the vast continent of Africa….They are a group with an

independent turn of mind,and are the most ethnocentric people in the

In Tiv society fornication and adultery are known as sex taboo. Dr.

Ushe (2010) explain…sex is a sacred thing and if there is a breach

of its sacredness,the consequences are grievous. Suemo (2001) opines

that fornication and adultery are tabooed acts in Tivland because:

…Tiv people accept sexual intercouse as a natural need that is

strategic to human life…But the rate at which a Tiv man looks at

someone caught in the very acts of fornication and adultery shows how

criminal the acts are. In Pre-modern Tiv society,punishment for

committing such offences ranged from severe corporeal punishment to

contempt for the preson involved. If such persons swore “Swem”it was

believed that the would fall sick,have a swollen stomach,severe

headache and subsequently die.
Suemo's presentation above indicates that the Pre-colonial,colonia and

even post-colonial Tiv society frowns at sexual aberrations like

fornications, incest,homosexuality,lesbianism etc. The Tiv are always

forthright in attacking defaulters who indulge in these acts. These

deviant behaviors are considered by the Tiv people to sexual

aberrations. Those who indulge in any of those sex taboos was required

to make some required purification rituals so as to be cleansed.

In Tiv society,the practice of hospitality is highly emphasized. The

Tiv people have a strong philosophy of solidarity as “Ya kwagh na wan

igban”(eat and share with your brother), they also believed that this

philosophy can only be strong when people generously care for others.

The Tiv gesture of kindness and receptibility towards visitors has

often been misconstrued. But the fact still remains that Tiv people

hold in high esteem the virtue of : welcoming strangers,protecting

visitors (u eren a mba van nya dedoo), feeding the hungry (u naan mba

ijen i ker ve kwaghyan), housing the homless (u taren ior ikyar ki

yaven),among others. But it must be noted that Tiv people do not joke

with thier wives talkless of sharing them consciously with others. It

is common to hear a Tiv man say, “U keren kwase me tambe u ken ken”(If

you have lostful relationship with my wife I must bewitch you).

During the Pre-colonial times,there were several cases of fornications

and adulterers in Tiv society who were cursed,bewitched or even

killed. If the people could be so brutal against themselves for being

promiscuous,what would one expect when it concerns an outsider?

In generations past,the Tiv people were strong warrior tribe. Through

war conquests they aquired many slaves,among which were women. When a

Tiv man had a visitor,he would sometimes send one of the female slaves

to keep him company. The visitor who was not resident there would

think that the woman was the Tiv man's wife. But if the slave

eventually got pregnant and gave birth,the child became a slave by

birth this mean more hands at farm. Must of the slaves were later sold

to the whitemen.
I rest my pen.
John Akevi
Gboko,Benue state.
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